On the latest edition of the Beyond the Baseline Podcast, host Jon Wertheim talks with Washington Kastles owner, investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mark Ein. As a longtime fan and player of the sport, Ein discusses how he was introduced to tennis as a child and how his experiences as a ballkid growing up have influenced some of his business ventures as an adult. As the owner of the Washington Justice, a professional Overwatch esports team, Ein talks about what tennis can learn from the world of esports and how it can attract younger fans; why he decided to take control of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.; what he thinks about the lack of professional tennis tournaments in the U.S.; and much more.
Jon Wertheim: You own the Washington Kastles, but you own another professional sports team as well. Tell us about that.
Mark Ein: Yes I own the Washington Justice in the Overwatch esports league, which is the preeminent esports league in the world. It's been extraordinary. We acquired the franchise in the fall and we've been playing this season. Esports, I would say, is the biggest thing in the world that no one really knows exists. But if you're under 30 this is what you're spending your time doing and the passion and size of this community is unbelievable. You know, 2.2 billion people on earth play video games, so you have this incredibly large universe of people who are playing themselves and now it's turning to watching the best in the world play it just like every other sport. And it's been it's been fascinating and thrilling and really exciting to be part of this this new world that I think when you look forward is gonna be a huge part of the sports landscape.
ME: Yeah I mean I am not sure I have the magic formula but I think you've thrown out a bunch of the ideas you can play with the scoring system, you can play with coaching and I will say you and I have talked about this that I've generally been much more on the traditional side, that one of the great things about tennis is you have to figure out yourself. I'm beginning to come around on that a bit because I think the interaction between coach and player is something that's really interesting for people to see and understand. One of the things we did in Team Tennis two years ago that was fantastic is we mic’d the players, and especially in doubles. The same technology that they mic LeBron James or Tom Brady you can use on the tennis court. It's not obtrusive. But to hear the players talking about the play that they're about to make, either on the serve or the return, and then watching it happen was magic. Things like that, bringing technology in to the game. And look there's a lot of things that at one point were anathema—the tiebreak and no ad scoring and certain things. I mean there are all kinds of things and we've adopted over time. I just think it's about finding the balance. But we can't be afraid to try new things and adopt them when they work.